It is quite possible that the greatest human challenge in this century will be how or whether we humans can fairly share what belongs to all.  Aristotle stated the issue: “…what is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it.  Everyone thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest.”  Garrett Hardin summarized this issue for the present age: “Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons.”

Our economic system is built on the proposition that markets allocate resources best.  But what is true of private resources may not also be true of public resources, those we hold in common.  The conservative response to this is, of course, privatize all public resources.  Twenty years ago this was accomplished in Russia and about a dozen and a half oligarchs ended up with most of the public assets.

In the industrial age we let private interests allocate our most precious public resources, our air and water, and we see how that worked out.  In this century we are now competing with the rest of the world as to how and whether together we can prevent carbonization of our very climate from fundamentally altering life on earth. 

Every man for himself would be a (more or less) rational approach to life…if men and women were merely economic creatures.  But there is also such a thing as moral man.  And it is moral man (and woman) who confront the necessity of protecting the commons and preventing a tragedy brought on by greed. 

We will either learn to live together and protect and preserve our common resources or our children and future generations–with the exception of the very wealthy–will have to learn how to perish separately.  And the prospect of a world of all against all may not even prove to be that attractive to the children of the very wealthy.

34 Responses to “Will the Commons Become Tragic?”

  1. Jim Engelking Says:

    When I look at another person, do I see my brother, my sister? If so, there is hope for both of us. I can control that outcome. No one can deny me the power to treat another person with respect. That is the ultimate human power, and its exercise is itself empowering.

    Over the last 40 years, I have observed the loss of common values which had formed our society. I have observed the promotion and rise of individual values, often in opposition to our society. This self promotion and rejection of others and even of society itself is so destructive that it is inevitable that no amount of money will be enough to ease the pain of our loss of society.

    But, each one of us can raise a voice against that awful result. Each of us can support a society of individuals who understand the benefits of finding common ground.

    My suggestion today is that each of us contact our two U.S. Senators, plus a Senator from another state, and ask for reform of the Senate’s rules on January 5. Reform those rules so that no individual Senator can prevent the body from acting. A restoration of comity in the Senate will help restore a sense of society there that will inform the nation at large.

  2. Debbie Lackowitz Says:

    First of all, Merry Christmas (belated) and all the best for 2011! Yeah, I’ve been wondering about this a lot lately. Actually since the Great Recession hit in 2008. I at first thought (when we elected President Obama) that we had ‘got it’. I really did. Then came 2009. The shrieking. Obamacare. Death Panels! Socialist! Nazi! OMG! And they didn’t get it right anyway. How COULD you confuse Socialism and Fascism? Well apparently we can! Then came 2010! OMG again! With Citizen’s United, the Supremes give Corporations a ‘voice’! Tax Cuts? Expire? Nope! No reality here! Then the Great Shellacking in November! Lame Duck Congress! Well, NOT so ‘lame’ actually. DADT now gone. RIP. The ‘Dream Act’ gone for now, but NOT forgotten. And the spectacular ratification of new START! And most recently, Medicare coverage of ‘end of life’ discussions between patient and doctor (aka ‘death panels) will NOW be done through I think an Executive Order as of Jan 1st. This MAY be the way President Obama goes to ‘circumvent’ the Republicans. This is my take on your idea of the ‘commons’. We have a President who is doing his ALL to make sure the ‘common good’ is served. But apparently the public disagrees to an extent. But WAS the voice of Americans REALLY heard on Nov 2nd? And DO they REALLY disagree? I question that. Just read a poll today that said that a not insignificant ‘majority’ of Americans feel that the ‘giveaway’ to the wealthy was too much. But the ‘deal’ as a whole has significant support. I think the most serious problem is where the ‘average’ American gets their information. If it’s from FOX, they seriously don’t have any. They’re just being played to. I think before we can get our ‘act’ together, this onslaught of misinformation HAS to be STOPPED. In our ‘free’ society, CAN we actually silence them? No. But what CAN be done is the mainstream (or lamestream as I like to call it) can ‘debunk’ it. Call them on it. Rachel Maddow calls it Debunktion Junction! Can this be done? Of course it can! There just has to be a will to do it. The problem remains, when there’s serious money involved (and there is) there is very little will or motivation to ‘rock the boat’. WE have to demand it!

  3. Publius Says:

    I take a most pessimistic view Mr. Hart. American ideology is built about ultimate consumerism. Life, liberty, and property (pursuit of happiness) is deeply embedded in the American psyche as is our national belief in our ‘Manifest Destiny’ as a nation. Such hubris, and the misbegotten faith in the invisible hand of the market provides sufficient reasoning for our collective greed.

    The ‘drill baby drill’ mentality of the raucous right blatantly disregards the externalities of pollution and urban sprawl/blight/poverty. The solution will required a quantum shift (war, pestilence,global disaster) to compel societies to a different lifestyle because the selfishness inherent to the capitalist ideology shuns any form of collectivity.

  4. Bill Pruden Says:

    Despite the fact that I can proudly say that I have read every one of Senator Hart’s books (including the novels), I continue to be so impressed and so grateful for his insightful commentary as well as his determination to contribute in a meaningful and thoughtful way to the ongoing dialogue that is so critical to our democratic process. At a time when so many of the Senator’s colleagues have moved into the lobbying business or simply opted for an easy retirement, the Senator has continued the fight, adapting to the ways of the modern world through things like this post and others, and he is to be admired for those efforts. At the same time those efforts are a clarion call to others–to us–to get involved. Those of us who read him must make the same effort to spread the word and to get others involved. So much of Senator Hart’s work has focused on the importance of democracy and the idea of a commons, as he has in this one, and as a new year looms all of us most take it upon ourselves to expand the commons and to be a part of the conversation-a real one and not a talk radio/televison shouting match. Such an effort has its roots in the best of our nation’s history going back to Thomas Paine and later the Federalist Papers. And yet, as Senate Hart makes clear we cannot wait for others. We must act if we are to continue to move this distinctive democratic experiment forward.

  5. Tyler Healey Says:


    I’m so depressed at the current state of the world. We are so divided. Liberals/Democrats hate Conservatives/Republicans, and vice versa. The unjust people on Fox News take advantage of gullible Americans while the world burns, literally. Has there been worse times than these? That which is right is not winning. Ignorance and evil are winning.

    I’d run for office, but I’m not rich and Jim Moran probably won’t retire ever. He’s a Democrat and his voting record on military and veterans issues was graded a C by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, of which I am one. That, or worse, is expected from a Republican, but a Democrat? We are bereft of great men and women. We have no George Washington, no Thomas Jefferson, no Alexander Hamilton. We may be finished.

    Tyler Healey

  6. Steven Paxton Says:

    It would depend on what specific definition of “Commons” is applied. I can understand it in the framework of an argument about political parties and their ideological differences and how those differences pertain to economic policy. But, on a broader scale, wherein ‘Commons'(as it relates to John Locke’s description in his work “The Two Treatises of Government”), “Commons” irregardless of political party difference is seen as a whole; something to which all are privy to. For example, as stolen classified information from the United States is not common property to the citizen of the United States, it is the property of the government of the United States. Though it may not be property in the realm of “Commons” it is nonetheless property for the preservation of the establishment wherein ‘Commons’ can exists.
    “Commons”, as it relates to economic prosperity for the citizen of the United States is indeed equal opportunity which sets the United States apart. Tocqueville observed that in the United States: “Equal condition”, though, it is not completely apt, due to the establishment of Slavery that was occurring in the United States, the removal of Slavery was in the interest of ‘Commons’ for the Union, the broader United States.
    I’m more concerned about the preservation of ‘Commons’, than the shifting ideological spats that change from party to party over the course of time. Liberals now, well, Progressives, as well as Conservatives seek both the opportunity and the equality of “Commons.” One side may argue for more opportunity and the other equality, but nevertheless the very sanctity of a ‘Commons’ is at risk when the greater ‘Commons’ is viewed within the context of a political ideology that is opposed to another political ideology, both sides have shared interest, yet, as both sides feel that their ideals are worth preserving, common ground for the preservation of ‘Commons’ is more paramount.

  7. lauren serven Says:

    The idea of the “Commons” is central to the values we hold dear as Americans but unfortunately, the idea is not upheld as widely nor protected as fiercely as the idea of free market capitalism.

    The idea of “commons” implies ownership of sorts and indeed the central question today, as it was when Walter Hickel wrote his landmark book, WHO OWNS AMERICA, is the question of who owns the common resources we all share as Americans. And in this age where “resources” can now be expanded to include services such as telecommunications and the internet, the question of who owns and profits from the commons is a question sorely missing from public discourse.

    Recently, the word, commons, has come to mean a form of socialism threatening private ownership and free market capitalism. Wall Street has replaced Washington as the epicenter of the American system of values and Madison Avenue concoctions have replaced our philosophical foundations. This trend not only fuzzes the the distinctions between democracy and capitalism, it has contributed to the mob rule mentality that has left our public discourse in turmoil. The political pandemonium of last November’s election will prove to be a Tea Party analgesic and the momentum towards an understanding of “The Commons” will hopefully be an unexpected consequence.

  8. Judith Rose Says:

    The politicians of today do not even stand for the idealogy of the parties they belong to. Greed and corruption are as bad as the days of Boss Tweed and perhaps even he would pale by today’s politicians. The individual parties are not selecting those with the potential to be great “statesmen” who put the country first before their pockets to be lined by special interests. Perhaps we need all to run as Independents with no party affiliation, use the technology available, limit spending and shorten the campaign timetable so the issues are discussed and debated versus the distortions and outright lies that bombard us through ads and the 24/7 media. Penalties should be made on those politicians who distort reality.

    Congressional rules should be changed and bills should be pertinent only to one item — no unrelevant items, no earmarks. Debate on the floor is structured and an up/down vote taken within a specified time period and sent to the President for signature or veto.

    I’ve tried to contact some Congressional members through their Web sites other than those who represent me. As soon as I enter my state and zip code, I receive a message saying only his/her constituants may contact them in this manner. Sure tells you they’re not working for the country as a whole. Senatory Lindsey Graham dis this recently, when just 3 months ago he was accessible through his web sire. Guess he no longer can stand the heat and accountability expected on issues on which he makes public comments on new programs such as Meet the Press.

  9. Kim Kendall Says:

    Through out this country we see many who advocate for justice and fairness. Some are connected and are of some affluence yet we see not monies available for identifying and supporting candidates that are rooted to the middle and show a substantial measure if character. I grow tired of empty rhetoric by pundants that don’t put their influence where their mouth is.

  10. Alfred Says:

    With our legal roots in English Common Law I find this explanation of the transition from common lands into large estates progressing to the industrial revolution and capitalist domination makes far more sense than the ideological frame works proposed by some in these comments, Mr. Paxton. This speaks to the most basic of the “commons” and how it presupposes other examples. Nothing like getting your hands in the dirt, while leaving a certain amount of thought for the academic.

    “The principal instrument used to undermine the old rural communities was land enclosure. By this means common land, to which common rights had become attached by ancient custom allowing even the poorest to have access, was now expropriated into large estates and private hands…For the mass of the rural population the enclosures were devastating. Whole regions became depopulated. Small farmers now became day labourers and hirelings. Some emigrated to America. Many joined the bands of the destitute who roamed the agricultural districts. Finally they were drawn with a terrible inevitability into the black holes of the growing industrial ghettos.” A review of J L and B Hammond, The Village Labourer (Alan Sutton, 1995) Mark O’Brien

  11. John Bing Says:

    The late Tony Judt wrote in “Captive Minds” (published in Sept 30 2010 New York Review of Books) about “the true mental captivity of our time.” “‘The market’–like ‘dialectical materialism’–is just an abstraction: at once ultra-rational (its argument trumps all) and the acme of unreason (it is not open to question).” So long as this irrational belief in the “free market” holds Americans in its thrall, there can be no acceptance of a commons. When the market is the great determiner of our combined fates, and the commons can only be protected by our common agreement (e.g., through government), then then can be no agreement about the commons, because the market, not the government, must prevail.

    I think Senator Hart and Tony Judt are in agreement.

    It will likely take a long period of economic failure before we are released from this “mental captivity.”

  12. Rik Little Says:

    Nowhere does the threat to our Democracy live more than in the Family Court system/domestic violence industries that rule in each State and funded by the Federal government (Violence Against Woman Act/Bradley Bill). This is greed on a state sanctioned level set up by manhating child abusing radical feminists and their unholy alliance with the American Bar Association. The family in America is now 39% single mother households as the father figure is criminalized, manipulated by unconstitutional court ‘procedure’, and forced to pay for the filching of his own children by these now institutionalized misandry organizations and judicial officers. The family and it’s ‘life and liberty’ rights are the most important check on government who violates our constitutional given right to Democracy. It is greed for money that fuels these state goverments vying for Federal funds which has allowed the governments evil intrusion into our families that is most destroying our children, our democracy and our future. For bad polititians the ‘National Organization of Women’ represents the ‘woman vote’ and they support and federally fund NOW $310,000,000 in the last job stimulus act thru VAWA. NOW is a child abusing, manhating radical feminist HATE GROUP the taxpayers are footing the bill for to expand their HATE. I hope Gary Hart looks into this truth and recognizes this greatest threat to our democracy.

  13. SilenceDoGoodGauge Says:

    Mr. Hart,

    I’ve developed several essays along the line of Commons. Democracy, public interest, civil discourse are themes to the equation. There are numerous reasons for the state of political affairs. Greed and power come to mind, though apathy should not be discounted.

    Please allow the following essay to enter the commons:

    The Humanity of Problem Solving
    by Scott Nesler – The Do Good Gauge (Public Incubator)

    Why take the time to methodically describe a problem? Why seek the advice of others to clarify a working solution? The answer is within the human spirit to be heard and understood.

    Life expectancy is 67.2 years in a humanity of 6.8 billion. Let’s say within one’s lifetime 3 problems fester for resolution. Let’s then cut a little off life expectancy for maturity and degradation to come up with 51 years to express knowledge. 51 divided by 3 is 17. 17 years to describe a coherent solution to a perplexing problem. If everyone did their part 400 million coherent points of view would be described on a yearly basis.

    “What a crazy notion, you could only hope to get a small percentage of participation!” I disagree, but .25% still leaves 1 million points of view per year.

    “A fraction of the populace can produce an intelligent point of view!” I agree, but suggest the fraction approaches 1. Even if the remaining 1/2 percent is capable, that leaves 5,000 quality solutions added to a repository of knowledge on a yearly basis. That’s 13 refined expressions of intelligence, from a humanity of thought, to read on a daily basis. 13 intelligent opinions is the daily equivalent of the number absorbed from a media of a few thousand privileged individuals.

    6.8 billion people! 67.2 years per existence! Oh, the potential for knowledge, understanding, and humanity!

  14. Susan Juetten Says:

    Hello, As a citizen concerned about the stewardship of public lands (I live in a western state), I generally take “commons” in the more narrow sense of publically held land and resources including air and water.

    Here too, I feel that we are coming to a crisis. What constitutes highest and best use of these finite resources, viewed so universally by the profit motivated and some recreational interests as primarily exploitable commodities? We need the kind of leaders in Washington and at local levels who take a wide perspective and make sure we have an intact mother earth after this period ruled by greed becomes less dominant.

    After finding the Gary Hart body of writings, I look forward learning how the senator has adressed this aspect of the crisis of democracy.

  15. Errol Nelson Says:

    This is excerpted from an essay I’m preparing titled Fishing in the Financial Commons = A commons, as defined by Garrett Hardin, in its simplest form is a dilemma arising when multiple individuals acting independently, primarily considering their own selfish interests will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource, even when it is clear that it is not in everyone else’s long term interests. It is presently manifested in the depletion of the forest, fishery and mineral resources, and the consumption of carbon based fuels, all of which are real life examples of exploitation of a commons. Humanity itself is a commons where the addition of one more person further depletes the other commons on which they rely to survive and prosper. What has not been considered, or even contemplated, is that the ability of nations to manufacture (create) statute law and fiat money using the full faith and credit of the government to define value, creates an artificial commons that further rewards selfish behavior (profit motive) that exacerbates the impact on the real commons. Nature, being nature does not negotiate, permit cheating, vote or ask for man’s opinions on how it responds to use of its commons. It is up to humanity to cooperate if they want to continue to survive and prosper.

  16. Will the Commons Become Tragic? « Machimon Says:

    […] Gary Hart’s Blog.. […]

  17. Rob Austin Says:

    I think that in the next 50 years we are going to finally answer the question of whether people are smarter than yeast. Yeast –think fermenting wine– will eat and eat and eat until they drown in their own excrement.

  18. john Englander Says:

    Very insightful and thought provoking. As to the thought about children of the wealthy–climate change will affect everyone; in ways hard to anticipate. Of coursr the poor will have less options as always.

  19. David Bollier Says:

    There is a vast literature studying the commons as a viable resource-management regime, much of it inspired by Prof. Elinor Ostrom, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Economics. Her extensive empirical studies rebut the idea that the commons is necessarily “tragic” (i.e., overuse leading to ruin), and indeed, provides a rich analysis showing the “design principles” for successful commons. Meanwhile, in the activist world and especially on the Internet, the commons is flourishing, often out-competing (or out-cooperating) the market — e.g., free and open source software, Wikipedia, social networking, collaborative websites, crowdsourcing, open-access publishing, etc. Because these ideas are too heterodox for conventional economics and mainstream politicians, few take the commons seriously as a transformative paradigm of politics, economics and culture. Many of us do. More at my blog/website,

  20. Gary Hart Says:

    Once again, I thank all for your largely thoughtful comments and observations and I particularly join Mr. Bollier in recommending Prof. Ostrom’s work for its ground-breaking effort to identify how various “commons” might be governed. At the risk of overdoing it, let me stress again that this issue will dominate political thought in the 21st century.

  21. Tom Flanagan Says:

    We are Facing Cycles of Anti-Intelligentsia in American Politics

    Yes, the commons are vanishing. They are not tended. This is a failure of our culture. To tend our physical and cultural commons, we need to allow ourselves to be owned by the land.

    If we see ourselves as being owned by the land, then we can understand the need to be collectively responsible to the common spaces.

    In memorable history we have presented ourselves as stewards of the land, more than as servants of the land, and we have look down upon the land as an object for us to manipulate rather than a natural force for us to obey.

    By changing the mythos and the cosmology, we can change beliefs and behaviors. This isn’t easy. It may not be possible without a civic revolution. Our cultural stability is assured through our sustained myths.

    Changing beliefs as individuals is not sufficient because this simply removes individuals from the collective. Changing together is essential for social transformation.

    The technologies already exist for supporting groups who are seeking to new pathways that will support their hopes. We simply the emotional courage to bring ourselves to accept ways of thinking and making decisions that will rattle our deeply anchored sense of what it is to be who we are. We lack the courage to embrace change that will bring unknown futures to life. We fear the dark magic, even as we stand knee-deep in flames.


  22. Scott Baker Says:

    The solution to the problem of the Commons is to recognize, as Henry George did 131 years ago, that we all have an equal right to the Land (in classical economics, Land = ALL natural resources). Then, implement a Land Value Tax on resources and locational values (e.g. people living in Manhattan should pay higher ‘Rents’ than people living in Podunk, Miss). All Rents should go to the community, since it is through aggregate demand that resources and locations become valuable, not anything the land holder does.
    Now, to encourage productivity – on a scale unlike anything we’ve ever seen – untax all manner of productive work – wages, sales, capital (REAL capital like trucks, planes and gumball machines, not funny numbers on a computer screen, and not money either, which is just a medium of exchange).
    This will free up ‘Land’ for efficient development (it will be efficient to avoid paying the LVT), open new opportunities, discourage hoarding for speculation (including in the commodities markets – another form of Land), and eliminate most unemployment and poverty. Indeed, George’s best-selling economics book of all time, Progress and Poverty, promised just that.

  23. Richard Young Says:

    I hope and pray that the men and women commenting on this beautiful treatise for Democratic Ideals is actively involved in the grassrroots OFA movement. I have dedicated my life to this cause. I understand that some of us would fault President Obama, I ask thhat you inform me of a more powerful and like minded person in America tooday! I ask thhat my email be published,and I release all claims or percieved liabilities from every entity and person that may exist. Please reach out to me so that this great dialogue may continue and hopefully save our great nation. My email address is OFA is a phenomenal resource and i feel that our great nation has great opportunity if we as citizens stand up for these beliefs. Thank You Senator Hart for your service, and it saddens me greatly that our country lost

  24. Gary Hart Says:

    Though the notion of “the commons” would be a fairly abstract one for too many of today’s political figures, the comments here reflect an astute appreciation by a number of thoughtful people as to what this crucial reality is and what it means. In an age which systematically depreciates the willingness and ability of people in the US and elsewhere to comprehend important, but sometimes abstract, ideas, these comments proves otherwise. If your leaders treat us as adults and converse with us as such, most Americans will respond in kind. Thanks to all, and continue to thing about the preservation of the commons as a profound moral issue in this century.

  25. Andy Says:

    While I have a simplistic view, my feeling is that the general population think of individualism, family and then in a very very distant third, country. It’s become quite easy to be cynical, divided and complacent in a world where the US has had the success that it has had. There has been little motivation to unite and prove ourselves as a country and so our hopes and dreams have gravitated towards more selfish gain. Given a dire need, our citizenry would place country over self, but the urgency (real or perceived) does not exist to propel people to a greater good.

  26. robby robinson Says:

    So Gary, do you remember this from an older Oxford scholar (older than you)?

    The law is quick to prosecute
    the thief who steals the goose from the commons,
    but lets the greater thief go loose
    who steals the commons from the goose

  27. cyberaim Says:


  28. Robbed by the Rich Says:

    One minor note: I wouldn’t be too sanguine about the fate of the wealthy in the future, in this worst of all possible worlds.

    Politics is a reflection of economic realities, and we are at the edge of a true global cataclysm in both spheres. Never in human history has the ownership of resources and capital concentrated in the hands of so few, on such a global level. Never before have multiple generations, the young and the old, been so bereft of their futures.

    The answer to this imbalance in the past has always been simple: the wealthy few are eliminated, and wealth is redistributed, fundamentally.

    We are now well past the point where this process can be gradualist and can be conducted through smooth, supposedly democratic political systems, as those processes, more clearly every day, with very few exceptions, like Brazil and Venezuela, are there simply as an attempt to further delude the dispossessed into quiescence.

    Instead, I predict we are well-primed for full-scale global revolution, and the entire destruction, rapidly and violently, of all the current systems of ownership and control.

    No amount of technology and surveillance will stop this tsunami of change; unfortunately, there is little vision around to guide it.

    We are at the beginning of a New Dark Ages, and most likely hundreds of years of breakdown, war, and cultural and economic dissolution. We may, as a species, not survive this. It is an increasingly likely and inevitable outcome.

  29. Christine Gallo Says:

    In response to Debbie Laekowitz, media coverage, or rather lack there of, by liberal/progressives has long been a concern of mine. But I’m afraid just as the majority of Democrats have not followed George Lakoff’s advice and framed a message, much less united behind it, we are also far from forming our own network, with corporate backing, to promote our side of any issue.

    Unlike Ms. Laekowitz, I do not believe will power, lobbying or refusing to buy the products of advertisers will affect the slant of news on FOX, or any other corporate backed news outlet. The owners of news outlets, both radio and TV, are conservative, and have a vested interest in the “news” containing a very particular pro business slant. Management of these various TV studios have actually banned particular reports that have been negative toward, or damning of a business interest. Even Public Television has not been exempt from Republican scrutiny. During GWB’s reign Congress was very concerned about the supposed liberal slant of Public Television, and replaced the CEO with a conservative Republican. (Which is why some of Bill Moyers specials were cancelled, and he is no longer on air).

    It is also the reason a free internet is so vitally important. It is the final remaining area of communication that has not been totally controlled by business interests, therefore someplace we can still obtain information that is so necessary for our freedom. It is what remains of the “fourth estate”, since the death of the press as we used to know it.

    I do think it is still possible to establish a news outlet, similar to FOX, for the left, but doubt it would have nearly the impact. Unfortunately, we would not have all those little radio stations spread around the country broadcasting the likes of Rush, O’Reilley, and Beck at all hours of the day and night. So even if we did find a left leaning corporation or two willing to underwrite a TV news station, and used George Lakoff to help form the message, and create a slogan (there is nothing like that “no spin zone”!), we are years behind in getting the word out. That is why so many hard working Americans who are not in the top 2% income level vote against their own interests. They don’t know that is what they are doing. We haven’t gotten the word out to them.

    In that respect, the airwaves of the commons have been “commandeered” by the right. But unlike “Robbed by the Rich” I still have hope that IF the public is informed, much like pamphlets helped during the Industrial Revolution, and word of mouth did during the fights for unionization, there is still hope for change. Overturning the Supreme Court ruling giving businesses voting rights; making Congress responsible to the people of the country again, making lobbying an information only business, federally funded elections, and having all TV and print material provided gratis as part of licensing agreements and permission for coverage of all campaign activity. Senators and Congressional Reps. who were then not responsive to their constituents would soon find themselves out of work.

    My question: where IS that corporation? Without a mouthpiece, without a unified, often repeated, easily understood point of view, “Robbed by the Rich” may be right. This country just might go down the tubes.

  30. philip witak Says:

    first found this essay on – where readers are also summarily informed that “comments are closed for this entry.” another shameful ‘tragedy’ as well – a popular, progressive website too afraid of the truths regarding ‘certain issues’ to permit commentary from it’s readers – something which i always thought is one of its defining characteristics.

    most unfortunately, the “tragedy of the commons” is our shared destiny. and it will ultimately be the cause of our mutual demise. the human species is simply too damned greedy, aggressive and self-centered for its own good.

  31. marleys ghost Says:


    They hang the man and flog the woman
    That steal the goose from off the common,
    But let the greater villain loose
    That steals the common from the goose.
    The law demands that we atone
    When we take things we do not own
    But leaves the lords and ladies fine
    Who take things that are yours and mine.

    The poor and wretched don’t escape
    If they conspire the law to break;
    This must be so but they endure
    Those who conspire to make the law.

    The law locks up the man and woman
    Who steals the goose from off the common;
    And geese will still a common lack
    Till they go and steal it back.

  32. JP Sayles Says:

    Dear Mr. Hart,

    I could not agree more with your eloquently expressed sentiment, however, as you know we are faced with the unintended (and most feared) consequences of capitalism. I would like to invite you to express your thoughts in my upcoming documentary. Below please find the link to my strategy (the subject matter of the interview) to literally “buy back” our politicians, in article form, complete with a poll showing 87% public support.–A-Strategy-to-Reduce-Corporate-Special-Interest-Influence-from-Politics

    I would also like to invite you to review my website (about a 20 minute read) for an expanded version of my strategy.

    Tuesday, Jan. 4th, 2011, I will be making a presentation to the Marion County (OR) Democratic Legislative Committee where I will propose a budget for this project. Your input and possible involvement could prove instrumental in our success. Would you be so kind as to please let me know if you care to share your thoughts with the nation on this subject? If so, I will gladly send you a copy of my book “Political Finance Reform” for your review.

    Thanks in advance for your distinguished consideration.

  33. Gary Hart Says:

    In response to Mr. Witak I will explain once again that HuffingtonPost is kind enough to accept my comments but does so as a means of directing commentators to this relatively new website. No one here or there is “afraid of the truth”, as evidenced by the appearance of his comment.
    And I’m delighted to have the 1764 folk poem once again and thank marley’s ghost for it. It reminds us of that classic definition of equal rights: the rich and the poor are equally entitled to sleep under a bridge.

  34. mleach Says:

    This isn’t so much a comment, but rather a request to reprint Senator Hart’s article, “Will the Commons Become Tragic?” in our monthly magazine, Share International. The article provides an important perspective, and I believe our readers would find it of great interest.

    Many thanks for your consideration.
    Monte Leach
    United States Editor
    Share International Magazine

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